Tasmania (Pop. 517,000) is an isolated island located off Australia’s Southern Coast. It is the smallest of six states in Australia, with an area of about 26,410 square miles. When considering the demographic makeup of Tasmania compared to Australia as a whole, Tasmania has the second oldest population (after South Australia), where 18.4 percent of the population is aged 60 years and over. However, when compared to other Australian states and territories, the Tasmania’s population is aging more rapidly than any other state.
Recent estimates projected the majority of population growth in Tasmania to occur in older age groups over the next 10 years. By 2019, it is expected that Tasmania will have the oldest population in Australia, where roughly 25 percent of the population will be 60 years and older. Such estimates help society to understand and respond to the needs of older adults living in Tasmania, ensuring that elders maintain good health and positive aging experiences.
In the Health Indicators Tasmania 2013 report, people aged 60 and over reported high levels of social support. 75.7 percent of seniors reported that they were in good, very good or excellent health and few (9.0 percent) reported that they currently experienced very high or high levels of psychological distress.
Of the health issues of concern, arthritis ranked highest, with 52.8% of Tasmanians aged 60 and older self-reporting they had been diagnosed with arthritis, followed by cataracts at 28.6%, depression/anxiety at 19.1%, heart disease at 18%, and cancer at 17.2%. In terms of behaviors that can improve personal health, 96.1% of older adults reported they had received a blood pressure screening in the past 2 years, 82.3% reported they had received a cholesterol check, and 76.5% reported they had received a diabetes test. Of the screenings that were reported, only 38.7% reported they had received a bowel cancer screening, which could be a target for future public health action. When reporting fruit and vegetable consumption, smoking status, and alcohol consumption, older adults were more likely to report they consumed fruits and vegetables, were less likely to smoke, and less likely to consume alcohol when compared to other segments of the adult population.
It is important to consider, however, how these indicators may vary by region within Tasmania, and also, how the health of younger segments of the adult population may impact their future health as older adults.
Diana Kingsbury covers Australia for Global Health Aging. She is a doctoral student and Graduate Assistant in Prevention Science at Kent State University College of Public Health.